Rome Ghetto


As the Germans conquered Europe, the Jewish population in the respective conquered territories ended up under German control. This meant that their lives were in immediate danger. In states that were allied or cooperated with Nazi Germany, the germans expected cooperation on the jews, etc., to be handed over to the germans. From the Italian side, they had a different view of Jews than the Germans, there was a milder anti-Semite that was not at all as radical and murderous as the Germans. Italy was not at all interested in extraditing the Italian jews. This meant that as long as Italy was independent, the Jews did not risk being extradited to the Germans. But when Mussolini was overthrown in September 1943 and Italy surrendered to the allies, the Germans occupied northern and central Italy. This meant that the protection that the Jews had until then was now gone and they risked being deported to Eastern Europe.

In 1943, there were about 12,000 Jews living in Rome. The head of SIPO and SD, Obersturmbannfuhrer Herbert Kappler, demanded a ransom in exchange for leaving the Jews of Rome alone. The ransom was paid at the end of September, but Kappler had no plans to keep his share of the promise. On October 16, Kappler carried out raids all over Rome and about 1,000 Jews were arrested. These were put in a temporary assembly camp in a military school in central Rome. After a few days, the Jews were taken to the Tiburtina station in Rome from where they were deported by train to Auschwitz. Subsequent raids meant that another 800 Jews were arrested and deported to Auschwitz.

The fact that no more Jews were arrested was partly due to the fact that the Italian police did not participate in the raids and that several Jews fled to the Vatican in central Rome. The Germans did not eat them because the Vatican was an independent state whose sovereignty the Germans did not dare to challenge. Add to that that the italians were generally against the Germans’ treatment of the jews, which meant that the germans had to do everything themselves without the help of local authorities and bodies. This meant that about 10,000 of Rome’s Jews survived. Rome was liberated by troops on June 4.

As in other western European countries, no ghetto was established in Rome. The ghettos were established in Eastern Europe between 1939 and 1943 when they were systematically dismantled and the inhabitants were sent to some concentration camp or murdered. In Rome, however, there was an ancient Jewish ghetto that existed in various forms between 1555 and 1888. This was the last ghetto in Europe to exist before the Germans reintroduced the ghettos in 1939. Although the ghetto after 1888 no longer existed, it had a Jewish character and when the Germans in October 1943 began their raids, the former ghetto was a priority objective.

Current status: Preserved with memorial tablets (2018).

Address: Via del Portico dĀ“Ottavia, 00186 Rom.

Get there: Bus to Piazza Venezia

My comment:

The Jewish character of the ghetto remains and there are several Jewish cafes and restaurants and a synagogue. Incidentally, a cozy neighborhood with small alleys and streets. A bit outside the ghetto and along the Tiber is the military school that served as a temporary gathering camp for the Jews arrested. It remains and on the facade there is a memorial plaque. At the station Tiburtina, there was at least before it was rebuilt in 2011 a memorial plaque of the deportations. I let it be unsaid how it looks after the rebuild, I found no one when I was there in 2018 and I have not managed to get any info on this.

Follow up in books: De Felice, Renzo: The Jews in Fascist Italy: A History (2001).